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Posted on October 9th, 2012, by

Conflict is an inseparable part of any social life. Within organizations and/or teams, where people work in a mutually dependent environment and in the situation where resources are limited, the intersections of interests and potential conflicts are inevitable. Conflicts in organizations may be structural, role-based and resource-centered. A certain level of conflict even benefits to the progress and creativity in the working process, but often conflicts, especially those which have not been addressed timely, become the source of stress for people, lead to diversion of energy and create chaos. The aim of this essay is to analyze communication techniques used for conflict solving and avoiding, especially in organizations where workers are assigned different roles, and methods of improving interdepartmental communications within an organization.

1. Organizational conflicts

All types of conflicts within an organization may be divided into three types: intrapersonal, interpersonal and interdepartmental conflicts.

Effective conflict management has several aims to minimize negative consequences of the conflict, to find a solution that would be satisfactory and acceptable for both sides (win-win situation) and to take measures for avoiding such situations in future, if possible. The sources of conflicts may be of different origin, the main of them being personal differences, role incompatibility, lack of information or resources and environmental stress. Finally, the strategies for addressing conflicts may also be varied; Thompson, for example, suggests such styles as dominance, withdrawal (avoidance) and smoothing (Rahim, 2000). This essay is meant to address the methods of smoothing conflicts and, if possible, eliminating their source.

2. Techniques for avoiding conflict situations

First of all, for efficient conflict resolution and for minimization of conflict situations, the employees have to possess some communicative qualities which can be improved via training and teambuilding. The defusing technique is one of important methods in such situations if someone is attempting to start a conflict, the other side might avoid the conflict by simply agreeing with the first individual. Empathy and the ability to put oneself in the shoes of the opposite side are also important in situations where conflict is possible. Discussion and open atmosphere add up to the process of smoothing conflicts; the atmosphere is to a certain extent the responsibility of the team leader or the authorities. In order to solve conflicts efficiently, both sides should feel free to discuss the situation and set own arguments.

All the above-mentioned were techniques for solving existing conflicts or the ones which are about to appear. However, the most efficient strategy is to eliminate inner reasons for conflicts. In teams where individuals hold different roles, there are three conflict resolution tendencies: focusing on the content of interpersonal interactions rather than delivery style, explicitly discussing reasons behind any decisions reached in accepting and distributing work assignments, and assigning work to members who have the relevant task expertise rather than assigning by other common means such as volunteering, default, or convenience (Rahim, 2000).

3. Improving communication between departments

Besides interpersonal and intragroup conflicts, which have been discussed in section 2, there might be interdepartmental conflicts, which usually have a negative effect on the whole organization. For handling interdepartmental conflicts, it is necessary to analyze the reasons of such situation. Generally, the reasons may fall into four categories (Rahim, 2000):

ü    personal conflicts between department managers

ü    inefficient and time consuming communication channels between departments

ü    communication does not fall into standard operating procedures

ü    stereotypes within the organization

ü    physical separation of departments

In order to improve communication flow, it is necessary to find answers to core questions such as:

ü    What information is needed and should be exchanged?

ü    If communications are inefficient, what reengineering should be done to improve existing situation?

ü    Whether job rotation is necessary in order to improve communications?

ü    Which information, on the opinion of the employees, may be given to other departments?

After analysis, such methods as team building for department heads, modernization or restructuring of communications, rotation of employees, role redistribution and collective brainstorming may be used to address the problem.

Conclusion

In teams with different distribution of roles careful selection of employees should provide balance between the necessary skills and personal qualities among group members to allow the tasks to be achieved effectively without unnecessary conflicts. In case of interdepartmental conflicts, analysis of reasons should be implemented and corresponding measures planned. In general, conflict situations may serve not only as a negative factor for the organization, but, at low conflict level, they may also foster creativity, enhance progress and development of the organization.

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